Fantastic free event to celebrate the jewel in Hastings’ crown

A bygone Alexandra Park
A bygone Alexandra Park

There will be plenty to do for the whole family as Alexandra Park celebrates its 150th anniversary with a Victorian-themed family event on Saturday (June 14).

The day-long extravaganza will feature all manner of period fun and visitors are encouraged to wear their finest Victorian outfits.

It has been organised by Hastings Borough Council together with local community groups, and the fun will run from 12 noon until 5pm in the lower park.

Councillors and local dignitaries will also get involved and aim to take part in some suitably period sports like hammer throwing, Quoits and traps.

Cllr Dawn Poole, lead member for leisure and amenities explained: “Events will include a brass band, Punch and Judy, penny farthing cycles, afternoon tea, children’s play day, hammer throwing, quoits and a steam boat and model boat display on the boating lake.

“Visitors are invited to dress up and join in with the Victorian theme on the day.”

“Alexandra Park really is the ‘jewel in our crown’. As a Grade II Park of Historic Interest the park has regularly been the recipient of the prestigious Green Flag Award.

“This national award, handed out by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, recognises and rewards the best parks and green spaces across the country. A Green Flag flying overhead is a sign to visitors that the space boasts the highest possible standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent facilities.”

“Working together with the Friends of Alexandra Park the council has a determination to sustain and wherever possible continue to develop and improve Alexandra Park for future generations.”

“This free event for all on Saturday 14 June aims to celebrate the park and its history in true Victorian style and will mirror some of the original events that took place in 1864”

Alexandra Park is steeped in history and in 1850, still surrounded by farmland, the reservoirs were constructed to provide water for the growing town of Hastings. A smallholding at the southern end of the park was acquired by the Corporation in 1859 and landscaped as a garden for the residents of St Andrews Square. The park was named St Andrews Gardens in 1864.

By 1878 the Corporation had acquired much of the land and now wanted to stimulate development and to achieve this it decided to landscape a much larger park extending towards Silverhill and Buckshole Reservoir. The eminent landscape gardener of the time, Robert Marnock, was commissioned and much of what we see today was created.

In 1882 the new Alexandra Park was opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales (Princess Alexandra). Of huge significance in the new landscape was the tree collection, much of which was planted by Marnock. They shape the landscape and give a sense of splendour and serenity, their living presence a potent symbol of strength, resilience and continuity. It’s thanks to the foresight of its designer Robert Marnock and subsequent generations of municipal arboriculturalists that Alexandra Park is now resplendent with large and beautiful trees, many of which are regarded as ‘champions’.

Marnock loved the natural landscape and enjoyed manipulating it to good effect by incorporating the Victorians’ love affair with rare species. Collections were set up of oaks, limes, maples, beeches and hollies, many of which survive today. Alexandra Park had been, to some extent, neglected up until the late 1990s, but in 2000 the Heritage Lottery Fund helped restore the park, thanks to a £3.4 million grant. The park was the reopened by TV gardening celebrity Charlie Dimmock in 2004.